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Qatar: Egyptian star insists that religion and customs will not be changed during tournament

Egypt striker Mohamed Aboutrika attends a press conference [Chris Stein/AFP/Getty Images]
Egypt striker Mohamed Aboutrika attends a press conference [Chris Stein/AFP/Getty Images]

A former Egyptian footballer who lives in Qatar said on Saturday that the Gulf State will surprise the world with the launch of the FIFA World Cup 2022. Mohamed Aboutrika insisted that the religion and customs of the country should be respected during the tournament, which kicks off on 20 November until the final on 18 December.

"We will not change our religion, our customs and our traditions for 28 days… and you have to adapt to us and respect the laws of our country," said Aboutrika, who works as an analyst for the Qatari BN Sports channel. "I have lived in Qatar for six years and I am proud of it, as if it is my country, Egypt."

The former player was speaking in response to criticism of Qatar. "Western campaigns will not frighten us. There is envy and hatred of the State of Qatar, which will honour all Arabs and Muslims." He pointed out that all Arab countries supported Qatar in its bid to host the World Cup.

Most of the criticism focuses on the fact that homosexuality is a criminal offence in Qatar, as it is in other Muslim countries, and the treatment of the migrant workers who are responsible for building the stadiums in which World Cup matches will be played. Critics overlook the fact that many football teams benefit from superb training facilities in, for example, the UAE, during winter breaks, which were also largely built by low-paid, migrant labour.

"We know football does not live in a vacuum and we are equally aware that there are many challenges and difficulties of a political nature all around the world," FIFA President Giovanni Infantino told Sky News. "But please do not allow football to be dragged into every ideological or political battle that exists."

READ: FIFA pleads with World Cup nations to 'focus on football' in Qatar

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